cat·a·comb | \ ˈka-tə-ˌkōm \

Definition of catacomb 

1 : a subterranean cemetery of galleries with recesses for tombs usually used in plural

2 : something resembling a catacomb: such as

a : an underground passageway or group of passageways

b : a complex set of interrelated things the endless catacombs of formal education —Kingman Brewster †1988

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Synonyms for catacomb


crypt, vault

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Did You Know?

About forty Christian catacombs have been found near the roads that once led into Rome. After the decline of the Roman empire these cemeteries were forgotten, not to be rediscovered until 1578. Catacomb has come to refer to different kinds of underground chambers and passageways. The catacombs of Paris are abandoned stone quarries that were not used for burials until 1787. The catacombs built by a monastery in Palermo, Sicily, for its deceased members later began accepting bodies from outside the monastery; today you may wander through looking at hundreds of mummified corpses propped against the catacomb walls, dressed in tattered clothes that were once fashionable.

Examples of catacomb in a Sentence

explored the catacombs looking for evidence about burial customs of that ancient society

Recent Examples on the Web

But below the stalls and stands is a maze of catacombs, dark corners and maybe even paranormal activity. Sarah Bahr, Indianapolis Star, "Ultimate Indiana bucket list: 50+ things to do in Indianapolis and around the state," 11 July 2018 Illuminated by 14 circular skylights, the catacomb is 155 feet long but only 10 feet wide. Arthur Lubow, New York Times, "Is Opera Dying? No, But This One Is Staged Among the Dead," 1 June 2018 Egypt's Supreme Council of Antiquities announced Saturday the discovery of a necropolis near the city of Minya, south of Cairo in an area known to house ancient catacombs. Charlene Gubash, NBC News, "Archaeologists discover burial ground for Egyptian high priests," 24 Feb. 2018 Ludlow House, a members-only club in the Lower East Side, is a catacomb of various bars, lounges, parlors, and restaurants. Ian Frisch, Longreads, "Anthony Bourdain and the Missing Piece," 9 June 2018 There’s one spot in the catacombs in particular that piques my interest: a pitch-black alcove in the corner. Jennifer Nalewicki, Smithsonian, "Beneath Indianapolis’ Bustling City Market Lies a Forgotten Underground Expanse," 9 May 2018 At one time the catacombs served as a convenient way to transport and store goods from the above-ground marketplace during a time when refrigeration wasn’t readily available, Manterfield explains. Jennifer Nalewicki, Smithsonian, "Beneath Indianapolis’ Bustling City Market Lies a Forgotten Underground Expanse," 9 May 2018 His is painted royal blue, its vivid design standing apart in this crowded beachfront graveyard, where catacombs are weather-beaten and simply marked. Maria Torres, kansascity, "A year after his death, Yordano Ventura’s unsettled affairs still linger," 21 Jan. 2018 Given the complexities of mummification, and the proximity of animal catacombs to temples, the practice was clearly administered by the priesthood, which seems to have treated it as a business. Jonathon Keats, Discover Magazine, "The Animal Mummy Business," 10 Nov. 2017

These example sentences are selected automatically from various online news sources to reflect current usage of the word 'catacomb.' Views expressed in the examples do not represent the opinion of Merriam-Webster or its editors. Send us feedback.

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First Known Use of catacomb

15th century, in the meaning defined at sense 1

History and Etymology for catacomb

Middle English catacumb, Middle French catacombe, probably from Old Italian catacomba, from Late Latin catacumbae, plural

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Statistics for catacomb

Last Updated

29 Jul 2018

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Time Traveler for catacomb

The first known use of catacomb was in the 15th century

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English Language Learners Definition of catacomb

: an underground place where people are buried

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Comments on catacomb

What made you want to look up catacomb? Please tell us where you read or heard it (including the quote, if possible).


alleviating pain or harshness

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